An accessible environment is one that can be used by a wide range of people comfortably and without assistance. Not only by people of different heights and ages, but also people who use wheelchairs to get around, have poor or no vision or hearing. The prerequisite for the creation of access is that the needs of different people have been taken into account in the building, at the event, for the service or when sending information.
Accessibility does not only concern people of different heights and ages, but also people who use wheelchairs to get around or have poor or no vision or hearing.
The special needs of people with reduced mobility have been talked about the most in the case of accessibility, but it’s no less important that vision and hearing impaired people can also move independently in different environments and take part in different events.
The use of different surface materials to indicate the start of stairs, the location of an information desk or a door can also help vision impaired or blind people to find their way around and cope independently. Tactile models and maps give vision impaired people important information about the surrounding space. In Estonia, there have also been theatre performances that vision impaired people have been able to follow with the help of an audio description that describes what’s happening on stage. A hearing impaired person can participate in a meeting if a sound-absorbing hearing loop has been installed in the room. In addition to speech, sign language can also be used to convey music, rhythm and mood.
So accessibility is not just about getting into buildings, it’s also about making sure that people with special needs can take part in events and services – listen to a concert or a lecture, go shopping, interact with officials or meet a friend at a café.
Accessibility is also about sharing information, from road signs, menus, films to websites. It must be kept in mind here that different ways and mediums should be used to communicate information.
An environment that is suitable for people with special needs actually opens up better opportunities for others as well. For example, low thresholds are better suited for children, the elderly, wheelchair users and the vision impaired. Ramps are comfortable to use when you push a stroller or a pram. People with ordinary vision also receive information from sound signals. So an accessible environment is a better environment for all.
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